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Brandon Robshaw: English Usage #26

A Potato in my Sock

This morning I was pulling on my socks and I saw that one sock had a hole in the heel. "A potato", I thought. "I've got a potato in my sock."

Does anyone else ever still use this expression? I remember it from the late '60s/early '70s. My mum used to say it; but it wasn't just confined to our family because I remember reading it in a Jennings book. I think the idea is that, when you're wearing a sock with a hole in it, the rounded patch of flesh that's visible looks a bit like a potato.

I don't think the youth of today would know the expression; but then, why should they? In days when socks used to be darned, perhaps it was a bit more useful. But now if you've got holes in your sock you just throw them away and buy another pair.

Dr Brandon Robshaw lectures for the Open University in Philosophy, Creative Writing and Children’s Literature. He has written several children’s books including a philosophical YA novel, The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers. He and his family starred in BBC2’s Back in Time for Dinner. You can find his website here.


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